Cliff Cave Park

You may or may not know that there is a natural cave just 15 miles south of the Arch in Oakville. It's actually the second longest cave system in St. Louis County with 4723 feet of surveyed passage. 

The first to utilize the Cave were Native Americans before the 1600s. They used the cave mostly because of its proximity to the Mississippi River. It was natural protection from the elements. The Cave also provided fresh water and steady temperatures all year long. The Osage people for centuries regarded the cave as a sacred place used for ceremonies. 

In the 1700s, Cliff Cave was used by French fur trappers as a riverside tavern believe it or not, for travelers of the Mississippi River. Later, during the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were thought to have used the Cave as a rendezvous point. After the Civil War? Better times were had at the Cave. A winery used the area for both its vineyards and the Cave as storage for the wine. The Cave had a 100,000-gallon storage capacity. The stone wall outside the cave is a remnant from this era. Anheuser-Busch later used the cave for the same reason the Native Americans and the wine company did: steady cool temps all year long. It maintains a consistent temperature of 57 degrees year round. 

Unfortunately, tragedy struck in the 1990s. On July 23, 1993, six people were killed while exploring the cave due to a flash flood. Changes to the front of the cave have been made since that keep people out of the caves…but not the bats! 

In 2009, a gate was installed not only to protect people from the flash flooding and other injuries, but also to protect the endangered Gray Bat and Indiana Bat, which reside in the cave. This was a joint effort betwen the STL County Parks Depatment, MO Department of Conservation, US Fish & Wildlife, Bat Conservation Internation, the Missouri Karst and Cave Conservancy, and the Meramec Valley Spelunkers. Other animals that call the cave home include: big and little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, cave salamanders, and isopods. As hoped, the bat population has increased since the gate was installed. 

Today, the cave is surrounded by a 525-acre park complete with trails for walking, horse riding, or mountain biking. The 3 main trails are: the Mississippi Trail, the Spring Valley Trail, and the River Bluff Trail. It's also a great place for sight seeing and bird watching.

It was actually given the "Best View of the Mississippi" award by the Riverfront Times in 2009, and contains woodland, wetlands, and rocky hillsides. Cliff Cave Park is part of the Mississippi River Greenway. The Greenway Trail was recently paved and takes you from the highly car-traveled Telegraph Road to the quietness of the trees all the way to a scenic overlook of the Mississippi River. The walkway was designed for walking, jogging, pushing a stroller, riding a bike, or using a wheelchair.

The Park offers a breathtaking backdrop for bike riding enthusiasts, with rugged terrain and its natural scenery. As cyclists hit the winding trails, they are greeted by limestone cliffs that give the park its name. The park's network of trails provides varying levels of difficulty, catering to both novice riders and seasoned adventurers seeking a challenge. Whether cruising along the gentle pathways or tackling the more technical routes, bikers are treated to panoramic views of the Mississippi River and abundant wildlife that call the park home.

So if you’re looking for some cool history or want some awesome mountain biking trails or just trails to walk...check out Cliff Cave Park in Oakville, Missouri.  

Useful Links 

St. Louis County Maps & Info 

Mississippi River Greenway 

All Trails 

Cycling Photo by Eric Brandt 

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